Various Artists

Music of Indonesia, Vol. 9: Vocal Music from Central and East Flo

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This volume supplements Volume 8 with more "virtually unknown" choral music from the barren island of Flores, east of Bali. In this mostly Roman Catholic region, choruses tend to have a mix of male and female voices, but the variety is remarkable, and includes a lot of what Western-trained ears will hear as dissonance.

The tour begins with selections from a harvest festival in the ethnically complex Ngada regency in the Boawae region. A song from the morning of the first day chases away evil spirits and raises many surprising associations: the deep moan of Tibetan monks, the rich male harmonies of Zulu singers in South Africa, and even some of the swing of South African choral music. The festival centers around a boxing tournament, and a song sung between short, bloody fight rounds is about a chilling as vocal music anywhere gets. Sweeter polyphony emerges in a song from a festival bringing rain and warding off insects, and in a folksy, call-and-response round dance.

Two additional round dances come from a New Year's celebration in the Ngada regency of the Bajawa region. Here groups of singers answer each other back and forth, creating an effect somewhere between the Balinese monkey chant (kecak) and old plantation songs from the American South. The double-time sections swing like gospel music, as close to an American sensibility as anything in this series.

Two long concluding selections come from the large, homogeneous Mangarai regency that makes up the west end of the island. With drum and gong pulse backing, a mixed chorus sings dense block harmonies against a warbling, male lead. The song follows a day of whip dueling and might go on all night. In the final piece honoring a death, men sing in unison against a mixed choir harmonizing in thirds. There's a ritual feeling to the performance, as the singers trace genealogy and history through sections with and without dance accompaniment.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
1:59
2
7:46
3
5:27
4
12:08
5
8:07
6
4:18
7
3:55
8
6:37
9
9:01
10
14:04
blue highlight denotes track pick